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7/6/15 at 02:38 PM 0 Comments

Marriage Advice: What Do You Do When Sex is Painful?

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I get quite a few of these questions, and I understand. I went through it, too, as I talk about in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. But the questions still make me so sad for these women. Here’s one:

I was a virgin when I was married at 20, and we’ve been married for almost 6 years. I have a toddler and a little baby. I love my husband so much, but I am deeply struggling with our sex life. Before having our son we suffered with a miscarriage, and then struggled to get pregnant for almost a year and a half. Sex during our struggle with infertility really tainted the act for me. It wasn’t about a union or strengthening our marriage, it was like a business meeting. Then we continued to struggle with sex during the pregnancy due to nausea and fatigue. And then I had an extremely traumatic delivery. We nearly lost my son and I needed forceps to get him out. This caused my my vagina to tear all the way through. Now my baby is 6 months old, and sex is still painful. It makes me shake and cry and feel sick to my stomach.

It is so hard to get myself in the mood to want to do something I know will physically hurt me. My marriage is struggling. My husband and I are currently more like roommates than a couple. I feel incredibly guilty because I know I’m the one withholding sex. My husband loves me and respects me and is so wonderful, but I know I am hurting him. After struggling for half of my married life with sex, I feel like I’m stuck in terrible cycles and I can’t seem to break myself out of them.

And here’s another woman who finds sex so painful:

Sheila, I would love for you to write a post about when the act of sex itself is painful. Those of us who suffer from vaginismus experience EXCRUCIATING pain during intercourse, or are even unable to penetrate at all. For the first 4 months of our marriage my husband and I weren’t even able to have sex, not because of the pain but because he literally could NOT get in.

I used dilators and now we can finally “get in”, but it’s still extremely painful and difficult, not romantic or spontaneous at all.

Then last night my husband told me that he doesn’t really like sex as much as he thought he would before we were married. After spending 3 months painfully forcing silicon dilators into my body so that I could fulfill my husband’s sexual needs, having him say he doesn’t like it that much broke my heart. He said it’s not that he doesn’t find me sexy, he just feels like sex isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It makes me feel inadequate and unappealing. I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but everyone always says that all men are sex maniacs, so if my husband doesn’t care for sex it must be because I’m not good at it. You’re always telling us wives to have sex with our husbands to make them happy, but what about when they don’t even want it? Is it just a stereotype that men love sex? What is wrong with my husband (or me) that makes him not care for it?

To both of these women: I am so, so sorry that you’re going through this. This is heartbreaking to both you women and your husbands, and there’s definitely a lot of grieving going on.

I have written about pain during intercourse, and if you’re suffering from vaginismus, as the last letter writer is, I encourage you to read this post about vaginismus–or when sex hurts.

For the first letter writer, I’d encourage you to keep seeing your doctor and talk to him or her about what you’re feeling. I have a friend whose tear never healed properly and it developed into a much larger problem. So I think you need someone to keep an eye on you and make sure it is healing. Having pain for a prolonged period of time is not normal, and it may be that you have to take a break from intercourse for a few months to entirely heal–which is better than aggravating something and have it develop into something worse.

Now, what about your relationships with your husbands?

I think the reason that the second letter writer’s husband isn’t enjoying sex is because it’s really only about the body. She can’t throw herself into something which hurts (for obvious reasons), and so it feels empty. I truly believe that once you deal with the pain issue the whole way you both see sex will change.

For now, can you all focus on sexual play instead of just intercourse? Often when people feel pain they try to turn off their sexuality entirely, and don’t do even what they can. Play a lot, and then do some of the things in the post on vaginismus to start dealing with the pain. But don’t stop playing, or the whole thing becomes far too serious–and that’s no fun at all. I also talk about this a lot more in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, so check that out for more thoughts.

By Sheila Wray Gregoire

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